Today we are going to take a look at the highly anticipated Viking survival game Valheim that entered early access on the 2nd of February 2021 and took the community by storm while spearheading to the top of Steam’s Top Seller list.
In the first three weeks, the game sold more than four million copies, received an overwhelmingly amount of positive reviews by its players, and charged like a berserker into the list of most active games on steam, and blew most of the established giants away.
Since I love history, especially the Viking Age, I simply had no other choice but to check this game out for myself.
Valheim is a typical survival game, just like Rust, ARK, Raft, and the Forest. However, you won’t die from dehydration or starvation in Valheim, which in the other games felt more like a chore than fun. The only consequence from a rumbling stomach is a lower amount of health points, dehydration is no problem at all since there is no thirst meter.
Ok, back to what this article is really about, how much of the game is really Viking culture? The following are my first impressions of the game, and I will point some of the things out that they nailed and failed.
Honest Valheim review
According to the Valheim game lore, there are ten realms in Norse mythology, Valheim being the tenth. You were slain in battle, and your soul was brought to Valheim by the Valkyries. The realm is besieged by creatures of chaos and ancient enemies of the gods, and you have been tasked with slaying these ancient rivals and bringing order to the realm of Valheim.
Before we begin our journey into the game let’s take a look at the character creation. You can pick the same hairstyle regardless if you play as a male or female. If you want the avatar to have an authentic Viking hairstyle then stay away from these side-swept haircuts which I pretty much credit the TV series Vikings for spreading into the community at this point.
If you want a hairstyle that has some history behind it, and one that you probably didn’t know about, then pick the reverse mullet, which was one of the popular Danish haircuts in both Scandinavia and abroad. Danish fashion was, in fact, quite popular, which was something that annoyed Alcuin of York who one day sat down and wrote an angry letter to Edward.
The selection of beard styles is pretty limited, but there are still some great choices available, you can even pick a similar style as Sweyn Forkbeard, who gained his nickname because of his unique style of beard.
However, you won’t be able to play as a bearded woman, no matter how many times you press that button…
Most of the people had either blond or red hair, in Sweden, they would generally be blond, and in Denmark, they would generally be red-haired. But there were, of course, also people with brown and black hair, but they were just not as common.
According to this text, it is a Valkyrie that carries the avatar to Valheim. However, Valkyries do not look like this bird, they are female humans or Jotnar (giants), and they are chosen by Odin because of their beauty. The word Valkyrie “Valkyrja” is two words that have been combined, Val, “dead body on a battlefield”, Kyrja “chooser”. In plain English, it is translated into chooser of the slain. I must admit the bird annoyed me a bit, I have no idea what it is supposed to represent, but it is not a Valkyrie or for that fact a raven.
Upon landing in Valheim I spoke with the raven Huginn, one of Odin’s two ravens, the other one is named Muninn, and their names mean thought and memory. But I was a bit distracted because I saw a familiar symbol in the corner of the screen. Could it be? Yes, it is the symbol Vegvísir, a symbol that according to Icelandic lore is supposed to aid the bearer in finding his or her way home.
However, this is Icelandic Wayfinder symbol is, of course, not from the Viking Age. It was depicted for the first time in the Huld manuscript from 1860, and there are no earlier sources or depictions of this symbol.
rough start for Valheim…
I ventured on with my journey and began to head into the nearby forest where I spent the time swinging my stone ax at random beasts and mythical creatures until I came to a clearing.
Here I spotted a rune stone, curiously I ran over to it and clicked on it. To the untrained eye, these are just runes, and most people would accept them as runes from the Viking Age, but unfortunately, they are not.
These runes are called elder futhark, and they were used during the Iron Age. The runes they should have used are called younger futhark, which can be seen on the many runestones found throughout Scandinavia. For instance, on the Jelling stone in Denmark, which was raised by Harald Bluetooth to brag about his accomplishments.
I continued on with my journey into the unknown while beating foes that crossed my path.
I found several of these stone ship formations, these are authentic, and there have been found a large number of these throughout Scandinavia. If I had a pickaxe on me, I could probably have discovered a skeleton along with a small treasure beneath the soil, maybe next time.
After hunting some deer to collect their skin and trophies I decided to go and make an offering at the altar in order to spawn the first boss. After all, I was wearing rugged clothes as protective armor, and I had a bow, what could possibly go wrong?
The name of the boss was Eikthyr, which is a stag that lives among the branches of the world tree Yggdrasil. According to the Edda, it stands on top of Odin’s hall, which is probably Valhalla. From its horns drips some kind of liquid, all the way down to the well Hvergelmir in the realm of Helheim.
I don’t know about you, but I do not see anything dripping from its antlers, but it definitely looked cool. But the fight was no challenge at all, and it was defeated as many monsters have been beaten since Ultima Online hit the shelves in the late 90s.
After a brief chat with Huginn, I headed back to the starting point, where I hung the trophy as a sacrifice on the picture stone, to gain some recognition from the gods. My reward was a buff that would decrease the use of stamina for a short period of time.
I continued my path into the unknown while hunting beasts that ventured into the cross sight of my bow. I had eventually traveled deep into the forest where I met a blue troll, another disappointing fight, but at least he chopped down some trees for me.
I came to the entrance of a dungeon which according to the game is a Viking burial chamber, and I was told by Huginn of the many treasures that awaited me below. It was pretty dark, I am glad I had a torch in my bag.
The landscape of the starting area looks similar to many areas in Scandinavia, the trees are almost spot on. So far I have found Beech and birch trees, which was common during the Viking Age. Pine trees, such as the European red pine (Pinus sylvestris), may or may not have been common in all of Scandinavia. If I had to take a guess, I would say northern parts of Norway and Sweden were probably covered in them.
Wild fruit and vegetables could be found in abundance in the Scandinavian forests, so far I have come across turnips, mushrooms, carrots, raspberries, and blueberries. Technically it was not blueberries but bilberries which are smaller, darker, and filled with more flavor, but that is probably nitpicking.
These ingredients, along with bread, honey, fish, and pork would turn anything into a satisfying meal, that is, of course, if you had pockets full of silver for such a lifestyle. But I am sure it was always pork o’clock somewhere in Scandinavia during the Viking Age.
Clothes and weapons in Valheim
If we take a look at the clothes available in Valheim, there is only one set that I would consider somewhat authentic, and that is the rugged clothes.
The helmet looks legit; however, a helmet like this would have been extremely rare in the Viking Age, and you could compare it with owning an expensive sports car today.
You can also craft a cloak, but I threw it away since it looked too much like something superman would wear. The Vikings did wear cloaks, but they looked different and they were closed at the chest or shoulder depending on if you were male or female.
The rest of the clothes are pretty much a joke to me, of course, I understand that this is a game, but why not use authentic cloth instead of this. There are so many great designs available, and if they were made use of, it would definitely lift the game to a higher level.
When it comes to weapons, your choices are limited, that is if you want to play your character as authentic as possible. The bow looks somewhat similar to the ones depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry so I will let it pass.
I would say the sword looks genuine, especially when I look at my pictures from the Viking museum in Trelleborg, Denmark.
Most of the shields are not authentic, this shield is the only one that even comes close, but the iron around the edge of the shield is too much for it to be classified as such.
According to the national museum of Denmark, it is believed that the shields were covered with animal skin, which, when it dries shrinks a bit, and thereby increases the strength of the shield. In that way, it was possible to have a light shield that would be more flexible to wield in combat.
This ax which primary function in the game is chopping down trees is authentic, and it has been described plenty of times in the Icelandic sagas. It’s called a bearded ax (Skeggøx), you can probably guess why that is. But, come on why is there no Dane ax? This ax is literally depicted everywhere, and there are many examples at the local museums in Scandinavia.
The big ax does also look to be authentic, and it would easily have been able to split a helmet in two. It may also have been used to climb fortifications, at least that is what it says in the Icelandic saga Eyrbyggja, which you can purchase on Amazon.
Look at these ridiculous Viking weapons, I rather punch the bosses to death with my bare fists than holding one of these in my hands again.
Valheim is still in the early stages, and this is early access, and I do forgive them for not having introduced jewelry into the game. Arms rings, pendants, and beads will probably make it into the game in a future update.
So should you get the game?, what is my verdict so far…
If you like to play survival games, exploring, crafting, and fighting epic bosses then you won’t be disappointed. I see a lot of potential for this game, and if the Valheim hype continues it could end up being one of the most sold and played games of 2021, at least on steam.
Since the game can be played as a Co-op with up to 10 players, I can imagine players or streamers having a lot of fun together with a bunch of people in this game. The price for the game is only about $20 which is actually a more than reasonable price, considering the amount of content you get. You can check it out in the store on steam if you want more information about Valheim.